Divine Destiny: Gender and Race in Nineteenth-Century Protestantism

By Carolyn A. Haynes | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
Ladders and Quilts
Catharine Beecher's and Harriet Beecher Stowe's
Visions of the Christian Subject and Nation

A lthough writing from a more privileged class and educational background than that of William Apess and Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Beecher Stowe and her older sister Catharine Beecher -- like these male predecessors -- nevertheless wrestled with the rigid dualisms inherent in Protestantism. As Kathryn Kish Sklar has eloquently argued, Catharine Beecher not only accepted the good-evil dualism embedded in Protestant theology, she "also exaggerated and heightened gender differences" that were soon to become endemic to an overwhelmingly Protestant U.S. society (Beecher, 153). Similarly, critical scholars writing about Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1859 novel, The Minister's Wooing, have contended that Stowe invests her narrative with a fundamental feminine- masculine opposition or conflict. Dorothy Berkson, for example, asserts that in this novel, "a repressive, dogmatic, paternalistic Old Testament creed...give[s] way to the liberating influence of a compassionate, matriarchal New Testament Christianity" ( Millennial, 246). Similarly, Lawrence Buell notes that The Minister's Wooing is founded upon a long series of thematic polarities that are personified in various characters: Burr's skepticism versus Hopkins's faith; Virginie's Catholicism versus Mary's Protestantism; and finally Hopkins's masculine, speculative theology versus Mary's feminine, intuitive piety. And more

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